Dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with reward learning and action selection, has been found to play a crucial role in the speed and accuracy of decision-making processes. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Cologne, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, TUD Dresden University of Technology, and Integrated Psychiatry in Winterthur, Switzerland, sheds new light on the relationship between dopamine release and decision-making.
The researchers utilized a learning task involving abstract symbols and rewards to investigate the effects of dopamine release on decision-making. They observed 31 male volunteers who learned to associate symbols with rewards under different drug conditions. The release of dopamine was pharmacologically increased using L-dopa and Haloperidol. The results showed that elevated dopamine release led to faster decision-making but also increased inaccuracy.
The study also revealed that dopamine regulates a speed-accuracy trade-off. This trade-off refers to the balance between reacting quickly with potentially more mistakes and reacting slowly with fewer mistakes. The researchers found that when dopamine release was elevated, the speed-accuracy trade-off was reduced, resulting in a preference for speed.
Professor Dr. Jan Peters, one of the study’s contributors, explained that these findings link two distinct theories on the role of dopamine. Dopamine is known to control motor response, but it can also regulate effort. The study suggests a mechanism that connects these two aspects by shifting the speed-accuracy trade-off in favor of speed.
However, the study did not explore the role of dopamine in decisions unrelated to rewards or the involvement of motor functions. Further research is needed to investigate these aspects. The use of computer models in this study provides valuable insights into the function of dopamine and its role in decision-making processes.
This research contributes to our understanding of the role of dopamine in decision-making and how it influences the trade-off between speed and accuracy. By uncovering the mechanisms behind these processes, future studies can investigate potential therapeutic applications in mental disorders associated with dopamine dysregulation.
Source: University of Cologne
Original Research: “Dopamine regulates decision thresholds in human reinforcement learning in males” published in Nature Communications.